A Table of Desserts

Still lives are incredibly sensual beings.

But not only do they exemplify virtuosity, their aim is to sneakily make you think about the very nature of life itself. Given this, why are they so easy to just skim by in museums?

Filmed partially in the Louvre in 2011, I made this video with the aim of exploring both the sensual and moral aspects of this subtle genre of painting.

The painting, A Table of Desserts by Jan Davidsz de Heem from 1640, has a lot going on.

The sensual aspect of the painting is elaborate and luxurious, with vivid textures and enticing details. When I first took the time to actually spend some time in front of this painting instead of rushing by it, I could have stayed in front of it for ages.

A Table of Desserts, Louvre

But the opulence of the visual pleasures has a hidden message. Food, music (as represented by the lute and recorder on the left), and all material pleasures are ephemeral, only lasting for a moment. Time (as seen in the watch strap on the table) is fleeting, and moderation is key according to this morality scene.

The life of the painting itself is notable. It was purchased by Louis XIV, which brought it renown. And, in the early twentieth century, Matisse made a version of the still life, which now lives in the MoMA:

  © 2015 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

© 2015 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


Musée du Louvre (Room 26, Richelieu Wing, 2nd Floor)

AddressPalais du Louvre 75001 Paris  ∣  MétroPalais-Royal Musée du Louvre (line 1 or 7) ∣ Opening hoursWednesday to Monday from 9am to 6pm, open until 9:45pm on Wednesday and Friday


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